If you asked Edgar Allan Poe this question, he would give you a definitive “no.” Remember that classic daguerreotype of Poe? The one where he looks like he just spent the night harassed by a legion of bed bugs? Picture that humorless face, and then read this:
When studying the arts of argument and invention with my composition students, I like to show them an image of Michael Craig-Martin’s An Oak Tree (1973) from the Tate Museum. It’s what appears to be a glass of water perched atop a shelf roughly eight feet off the ground, a simple installation accompanied by a printed interview with the artist himself. As a class, we read through the interview together—half puzzled, half amused. The text starts like this:
Where does literature fit in a well-ordered life?
That’s a question I try to get my students to ask on the last day of “Civilization and Literature,” a core humanities course I teach at Grove City College. A small percentage of these young men and women will never teach a literary text. The lion’s share never blink at the prospect of a PhD in English. (And thank heaven, since someone needs to keep the world running.) What part will the classics play in their lives five years from now, ten years from now, twenty?
Some who encounter medieval philosophy complain of too much minutiae, too many abstruse questions. Proofs. Counter-proofs. Articles. Objections. It's foreign stuff, no doubt. At the same time, we might challenge the reigning prejudice against this kind of rigorous questioning. Men like Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus retained the child’s love of asking questions. How embarrassing it is then that the medievals are younger than we are.
The following comes from a recent devotional delivered to the faculty of Coram Deo Academy (DFW, TX).
Parched by planning, grading, or any other part of the job, the Christian educator periodically needs refreshment in a Scripture that provides some spiritual nourishment for his vocation, for her calling. The teacher needs grace for the teacher. Romans 12:1-2 is a passage which provides, I think, such much-needed nourishment.
There Paul writes,
As a teacher, I lately find myself going to the poets for professional development. I find that it’s the poets, not the pedagogy experts, who know the soul best, though why and how I’m not exactly certain. Perhaps teaching itself is a poetic endeavor; or perhaps poetry, in it’s ability to work directly on the affections, is the purest form of education. Whatever the case, I’m stuck on several lines from Robert Frost in an essay called “The Figure a Poem Makes”:
There comes a point when walks do more good than books. You know the feeling: the page grows opaque; the same sentence spins like a pinwheel three or four times across the eyes; and your thoughts, like snow geese, join in sudden migratory flight. At times like this, the best thing isn’t reading. It’s walking: donning your fleece, rounding the block, and listening once more to the wild poetry of the poplars—not so you can stop thinking, but so you can truly start again.
Wordsworth knew the good of outdoor learning and wrote some lines about it:
Have you ever encountered a paragraph that itself was worth the price of the book? I did while reading Dr. Scott F. Crider’s The Office of Assertion. Here it is, linguaphiles (for free!):
Wisdom is a blindingly good word, but finding it in the Scriptures, we, like Plato’s cave-dwellers, shield our dark-deadened orbs in confusion and consternation. The sound of the word sometimes vexes our sensibilities or even leaves us cold. We do not know the reality behind the word, in the word, so neither are we warmed by it.